When it comes to effectively marketing any business, online visibility is crucial. This applies just as much to construction companies as to any other type of business. After all, search engines are the modern day equivalent of the yellow pages. If your construction business doesn’t pop off the page — or, in the case of search engines, appear on the first page of results — it might as well be invisible. For years, the best way to make that happen was through search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO continues to be a powerful option, but realistic expectations are crucial if you don’t want to waste tons of time and money.
Where Did These Unrealistic SEO Expectations Come From?
If you’ve searched around even a little bit for help with marketing your construction business online, you’ve probably already heard some pretty amazing things about SEO. Odds are that you’ve run across at least a few SEO firms that promise to make your site soar to the top of the search engine rankings. Terms like keyword density, meta tags and link building were probably bandied about. From the sounds of it, your site could appear first on the search results with just a small amount of SEO work.
The problem is that those promises will undoubtedly fall flat. Why do so many SEO companies make them, then? Mostly because for a while, effective SEO really was “that simple.” Back when the search engine algorithms were not as complex, achieving a high ranking was often a matter of using the right keywords at the right density for on-page content, tweaking the code a little and developing incoming links — also known as backlinks — from a handful of reputable sites.
Things Have Changed
It didn’t take long for website owners to catch on. Suddenly, everyone was posting generic, poorly written content — in fact, some folks were straight-up copy-and-pasting it onto their sites — sprinkling it with the right keywords, building new backlinks and watching their sites zoom toward the top of the SERPs. It all seemed to easy back then. People’s high expectations were often met, and SEO companies started springing up all over the place.
Those expectations haven’t changed a whole lot since, but what worked well then often misses the mark now. Not surprisingly, the SEO industry as a whole has taken a bit of a beating as a result. Sadly, many SEO firms continue to make these big, unrealistic promises to unsuspecting clients. When those amazing results inevitably fail to materialize after a few short months, SEO companies get fired. Their reputations are tarnished. Worst of all, business owners like you are left thinking that SEO is a waste of time, effort and money.
Ruth Burr mentioned this on Twitter the other day. Ruth said, “When your plumber fails to fix your pipes, you don’t assume that plumbing is a dead industry that no one should ever invest in. But when your SEO fails to get you rankings or traffic that you can measure, you assume all SEO is dead and all SEO is bad.”
The problem isn’t that SEO doesn’t work anymore; it’s that people’s expectations regarding it need to be rooted in today’s reality. Unlike in years past, people can’t just do small amounts of superficial work and watch their rankings skyrocket.
SEO has Evolved Along with the Search Engines
Considering that SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” it comes as no surprise that its fate is closely tied to how the search engines work. As the years have passed, Google and the other major search engines have had to constantly update, evolve and improve the algorithms that deliver results to users. It’s in Google’s best interests to deliver the most accurate, useful results possible. For a minute there, however, SEO started getting in the way of that.
Around 2010, the once-reliable Google started failing its users. Search queries often led people to sites that had little or nothing to do with what they needed. The culprit was largely so-called “content farms,” which used underhanded SEO techniques — including the use of generic, poorly written content stuffed to the brim with targeted keywords — to help websites achieve high rankings. Many sites were strictly developed to generate ad revenue. Instead of offering helpful information to people, they were overloaded with keywords and otherwise optimized to take advantage of Google’s algorithm at the time.
This was a problem for Google, and the search engine giant went to great lengths to correct it. The result was the so-called Google Panda update, which struck in February 2011. It took direct aim at sites that were filled with low-quality content, including sites that were entirely made up of “scraped,” or stolen, content. Not long after that, Google unleashed its Penguin update, which took dead aim at sites that used black-hat SEO techniques to achieve high rankings.
Once these updates were in effect, many SEO techniques that once worked like a charm stopped producing results. Site owners scrambled to revive sites that had plummeted in the rankings. The days of using generic, keyword-saturated content and relying on so-called “link farms” for backlinks were over. Apparently, many SEO companies failed to get the memo — at least when it comes to the promises they make to clients. This brings us to today, where the SEO landscape has changed dramatically. SEO isn’t dead, though. It still works. In the right hands, it works better than ever. Unrealistic expectations have marred its reputation considerably, though, and many business owners like you have been led astray.
Ground Your Expectations
Before looking for an SEO company in earnest, make sure your expectations are realistic. Unlike the old days, your construction company website isn’t going to zoom to page one of the SERPs after a small amount of optimization. In fact, most modern, effective SEO techniques will take 3-6 months or more to start achieving solid results. Most importantly of all, SEO doesn’t have a finish line. To work, it has to be an ongoing process. If you truly believe that there is an SEO firm out there that waves a magic wand over your website and poof your on page one of Google you need to think again. When a marketing company or SEO firm says they “GUARANTEE” you page one results, there is no need to consider hiring them anymore, just run. If you come across an SEO firm that offers a guarantee with a thorough, long-term strategy that pin-points specific details of what will be done you might be talking with a good SEO firm. Most top SEO firms today will not guarantee any sort of rankings because its impossible to guarantee without knowing how Google will adjust their algorithm.
SEO is just like anything in life, you get what you pay for…
Beware of Big, Vague Promises
Once your expectations are in check, you will have an easier time spotting unrealistic promises related to SEO services. You’re sure to encounter plenty of them. Whatever you do, don’t work with a company that promises to make your site the top-ranking site in your construction niche at the drop of a hat. Avoid companies that can’t seem to back up their promises with specific, clear steps for how they will achieve them, either.
Perhaps the best tool that any website owner can use when looking for help with SEO is the expectations timeline. This is a timeline that gives you a rough idea of how your SEO campaign will unfold. It includes specific, detailed information about the steps the SEO firm will take to help improve your company’s online visibility.
Although your expectations timeline will be unique to your business, it should include something similar to the following:
Audit – You can’t get where you’d like to be without knowing where you currently are. The best SEO companies perform exhaustive audits that help them see the big picture of your company’s online visibility. During the audit, the company will look at all aspects of how your business is marketed online. Your site’s content will be assessed, of course, but it goes far beyond that. Things like user experience, PR, branding and keyword targeting should all be taken into consideration.
ROI – The audit will likely reveal deficiencies in just about every area. That’s normal. The question, though, is which strategies and improvements will deliver the best return on investment? They will be identified and will form the basis of your SEO strategy.
Off-Site Signals – Off-site SEO has been a thing for years. Today, off-site signals must also be taken into account. These are largely comprised of so-called social signals from social media activity, engagement, PR, branding and coverage. Backlinks are still relevant but not as crucial as in the past.
Is it Working? – Ongoing analytics are a critical part of any successful SEO campaign. The problem these days, however, is determining specifically what is working and what isn’t. If your site’s ranking improves, which changes made it happen? A process of trial and error unfolds, and it can be pretty rocky in the beginning. As time goes by, however, slow, steady improvement should be seen.
Make a Serious Commitment to SEO
With realistic SEO expectations, your efforts are far more likely to bear fruit. Hiring the right company is, by far, the most important thing. The second most important thing is understanding that SEO is not a magic bullet. For it to work, it has to be a continual process that is managed and adjusted. You must be prepared to commit to it for the long haul, and you can’t expect dramatic improvements to materialize overnight. With your expectations in check, everything from finding the right SEO company to increasing the search rankings of your construction company will be much easier, and you’ll never feel like you’re being taken for a ride.